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Seb Anthony

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The team’s working but the management’s not!


A couple of months ago I ran a full day 'team development' workshop. As well as all the staff, the managers and Director attended and the day produced a great deal of very positive output and all left with new energy and focus. However, on recent follow-ups, it is apparent that the managers (but not director) seem to have gone back to their old ways eg. lack of communication, non-delegation etc. The director is aware and is trying to improve the situation but he has also asked me to run a half-day session for him and the managers. The objective being - improved management, in line with what was agreed on the away day.
Does anyone have any ideas on how I can really hit some of these messages home? These managers have all been on management training but seem to think that they can do whatever they want to. I'm looking for ways to really inspire them to change their ways.

Any ideas gratefully accepted!
Tracy Israel

9 Responses

  1. get messages from staff
    Do some survey work; guarantee anonymity, ask people what they were expecting – and what they got. Ask them to make suggestions how managers might keep to their agreements in terms of management.

    In the workshop, ask the managers what’s stopping them managing in the new style – but bear in mind that if targets and outputs haven’t changed, and the old ways worked before, what would prompt managers to change? Change requires support in new systems, new measures of success, new ways of working. Have these been put in place? If not, I would say you’re on a bit of a hiding to nothing.

  2. Manager motivation
    Hi Tracy,

    It seems you have a lack of motivation from the managers concerned here.

    I would drive the agenda in two ways.

    Firstly, carry out some work with the team members on how they could improve the effectiveness of the teams they work in.

    Ideally it would be in a workshop but failing that a questionnaire.

    Included in this session/questionnaire would be the following questions:

    • What could your manager do more of that would assist the team to achieve their goals?

    • What could your manager do that they are not doing now that would assist the team to achieve its goals?

    • Is there anything your manager does that is counter productive and they should stop doing?

    Typically if a workshop is feasible I would use rich pictures as a way of communicating possibilities and issues the team identify with their managers.

    If not picture another form of timeline analysis – what is it like now, what is it like in future and what has happened to enable the change.

    Secondly I would present the managers with the outcomes from the staff research and use the same technique to form their plan of action. This would be combined with a behavioural 360 feedback session – each manager providing feedback on each other in a visual process.

    It would be a first if the combination of these two approaches did not produce changes in the managers either through changes in their behaviour or changes in personnel! Given the directors current predicament both these options may be needed.

    You can have the details of rich pictures and the behavioural 360 if you contact me.

    n {dot] hindley1 [at] btinternet [dot] com

  3. Some other thoughts…
    Like any attempt at change, it’s important to look at what elements are keeping things stuck as they are.

    I’d agree if there is no reason to change behaviour – why would they?

    You mentioned positive output. Were there any actions from the day? I find good intentions tend to remain just that unless there are some measureable actions (SMART anybody?) from any team development event.

    If there were, maybe you could look at why things haven’t been implemented.

    Did they commit to these changes?

    Inspiration is good, but agreeing to a plan and implementing can be as much fun!

  4. Leading a horse to water
    It seems to me that there is a lack of direction and discipline from the top.

    You’ve done the team motivational bit but the managers appear to have no desire to make the changes sustainable. This would involve effort on their part.

    There is nothing and no one driving them to do the job that is required.

    In my experience, the key to your problem lies with the Director. He needs to make it absolutely clear that the company needs to change, giving the reasons why and the important role of the managers in the future success of the company.

    Then it’s time to state that these changes to working practice are not optional. No more Mr Niceguy time.

    Performance management requires leadership with a clear set of Standards of Performance and a mandate that they must be used. Then the managers need the training and tools to review and measure performance to develop effectiveness.

    I’d spend the half day with the director to help define the role required for him to lead the change.

    I hope this helps.

    Derek Leathem

    Performance Management Consultant

  5. Mission First
    My question is Does the company have a mission?
    The director appears to have one – has he shared it with the managers?
    Mission must come first. It’s what holds it all together when things get a bit messy. The Mission should be very clear to everyone and some thing the team is working to achieve and the individuals within the team are working to achieve. Without a clear mission everyone is free to go off in their own ways…as seems to be happening here.
    The team should know it’s role within the mission and each individual should know and be committed to the part that they need to play to achieve the mission. You can then introduce responsibilities and accountabilities which again are very clear to all. If a team member then chooses not to work within those defined responsibilities your business should support them in their decision to leave.

    So – use the mission to inspire them to find a positive contribution in the work that they do as individuals in order to work together as a team.

    If you’d like to chat through some ideas let me know.

    Tracey Dowe
    Momentum People Ltd

  6. Team work?
    Hi Tracy –

    I am in absolute agreement with some of your other correspondents – the managers return to their old ways because they can…If there is no carrot or stick to behave differently it’s highly unlikely that they’ll bother to make the chage (i.e. why would they?). You can give them all the training in the world but if they don’t want to change, or have to, they won’t. I agree that it’s their director who needs coaching or training and needs to influence them on this. Obviously I don’t know the whole story but if it were me I wouldn’t be spending any more time or money on the managers at this point.
    best wishes – good luck
    Andie Hemming

  7. the old formula
    In support of some of the other comments here it is worth revisiting the old formula;
    Performance = Skill + Will

    As you seem to be confiedent that the managers have the Skill then it must be the Will that is missing.

    People generally do what they are rewarded for (reward includes “getting an easy life or not having to make the effort to change”) so the Director needs to make it clear to his or her managers that there are KPIs that include the agreed management behaviours….fail on those KPIs and you don’t get the reward.

    Rus Slater

  8. Helping Managers Manage!
    Hi Tracy,
    Unfortunately what you describe is not an isolated case. It often tends to happen when people attend a course/seminar/facilitated session and they come away full of ideas and reinvigorated but when they get back to the business their every day pressures have not gone away and they quickly forget what they’ve learnt and revert back to type.
    I used to be a manager of 5 other managers and the way I improved this scenario was by using ‘blended learning’ ie when people attended a course I met with them immediately afterwards to establish the key learning points and what their action items were (which were often attitudinal or behavioural change). We then blended the training course output with coaching where either an in-house or external coach would monitor, support and encourage the manager in achieving his/her goals.
    Changing behaviour and attitude can not be done ‘overnight’ in one course. I believe in a blend of methods where they may learn new skill/tools/techniques/self awareness on a course but then actually put it into practice and review it in coaching sessions bi-weekly or monthly.
    By doing this the responsibility is theirs. They are more committed to the SMART actions that they have identified, are less likely to ‘not do anything’ and are measuring themselves on their progress regularly.

    If this was a team thing then you could even make the coaching sessions team based where everyone shares progress updates and it might open the door to more conversations around continuous improvement & development.

    Hope this helps.


  9. Its Leadership!
    Hi Tracy,

    “There are no bad workers only poor leaders”, holds true. This is a typical phenomenon in organisations that are too “busy” making money that they are blinded to see the “losses” in potential earnings!.

    In your case, I will outrightly say the problem rests with the top leadership, the Director.

    Yes, strategic inputs – Vision, Mission, objectives -do help put things in perspective, but if the leadership is not strong or assertive, operational implementation will meet inertia and failure.

    Change in behaviour requires a lot of reflection, sacrifice and committment. Sometimes, people including managers are willing to give it a go, but they need to be motivated and inspired by leadership. Instead of driving towards the outcome, the Director should inspire and lead.

    The fact that there are Managers who refuse to change their ways demonstrate there is no “total” committment and discipline to the agreed action plans. If so, the Director has to step in to convey his message and expectations in a manner that will invoke buy-in. (not some psuedo stuff!) And underlying this challenge should be the values of respect, effectiveness, righteousness and integity. Sometimes we are left wondering, “Can a leopard change its spots?”. This is where the true measure of leadership and declared organisational values are put to test. Sometimes, it may require invoking the steel of courage to address undesirable behaviours.

    Nothing is more damaging to the spirit of teamwork than being helpless and putting up with hypocritical behaviours of leadership.

    Hence, if I were you, I would coach the Director in identifying where he/she is lacking in terms of leadership competencies with specificity in handling difficult managers.

    Ivents Asia


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